We Need To Talk About Dealing With Depression And Anxiety At University
When it comes to packing your bags, temporarily waving goodbye to your family and moving to university for three years, we're all faced with our own problems.
Whether the problems are financial troubles, not liking your course, or generally not liking the uni vibe, we all have different ways of dealing with our issues.
Sometimes, as students, some people will choose to ignore their problems, because that seems the easiest thing to do. When it comes to mental health, however, ignoring it is never the solution.
I spoke with a lad who was suffering with anxiety and depression in his first year at uni, but was suffering in silence. He didn't tell his flatmates as he didn't want to seem like a 'weirdo'.
In the end, he decided that uni life wasn't for him and left, but before that he discovered the true camaraderie of his flatmates after hiding his mental health problems from them for a few months.
You see, at uni, it's easy to be labelled as a wuss, or as a fun sponge when turning down a night out. This lad, who I'm going to refer to as Jack to protect his real identity, often turned down nights of drinking because of his mental health, but his flatmates didn't know this.
Assuming he was simply not coming out with them because he was 'boring' or didn't want to have a good time, it's easy to understand that they completely overlooked the fact he was suffering from something much more than that.
"Now and again I'd go out, but not a lot," Jack told me. "Sometimes I'd much prefer to sit in my room, alone, playing on my Xbox, maybe drinking a beer or doing some work.
"I like going out, but while I was away from my family, as well as my friends who knew all about my struggles, I wanted to be alone."
Instead of abiding by the usual unwritten rules of uni, donning fancy dress, face paint and guzzling cheap pints, Jack would often wait for his flat to empty to be alone with his thoughts.
Credit: Bob Sizoo
"I didn't want to be seen as miserable when out," he said. "It's not like I was always sad, or always on edge, but at any time I could take a turn and just be like 'why, right now, am I in this club?'.
"When I thought about being miserable in front of all of these new faces it made me anxious, so I'd be filled with both my anxiety and depression, which is never a good mix."
Jack's decision to not tell his new friends about what was going on in his head is understandable, yet unnecessary. He wanted to avoid any awkwardness and didn't want to be seen as odd, but when it comes to mental health, we must always talk.
Eventually, after many missed nights out, where Jack was peer pressured to no avail, and branded as a 'let down', he decided that he'd tell his flatmates.
He told me that the decision to tell them wasn't some kind of excuse for not going out, and nor was it a cry for sympathy and attention.
He said: "I remembered telling my close friends back home about my problems. I told them and they were like 'woah, okay man, let's get through it'.
"After realising that was a while ago, when my friends and I were a lot more immature, I figured that these people who I now share a flat with, and are more mature, they could at least understand."
So to not cause some sort of scene, or make a big deal out of what he was doing, he thought it'd be much easier to just discuss it with whoever was sitting in the communal area of his student halls.
Luckily it was only a few of the lads he lived with who were sitting down, which made it a lot easier for Jack to make his admission.
"I tried not to think about it leading up to it, but when it came to it I was really nervous and anxious - I was shaking," Jack said.
When it came to telling his peers, something that Jack described as 'one of the hardest things he's ever done', the response was everything he'd hoped for and more.
After an awkward silence once breaking the news, his flatmates were quick to question why he'd kept it a secret. They told him that had he told them straight away, they'd be there to support him and not try to force him to go out and would respect his decision to stay in.
Given that there's a stigma attached to lads admitting that they're suffering from something as horrifying as depression, Jack didn't want to tell anyone he'd just met. However, given that at places like uni you become a part of a closely knit group of friends, it's important to know that there'll always be at least one person you can speak to.
You shouldn't suffer in silence, and Jack quickly learnt this after his flatmates told him they'd be completely open to helping him, as well as willing to listen to anything he had to say. It didn't matter if it was about mental health; it could be about games, films, girls or food.
After a few more months, which were a lot easier and enjoyable for Jack following his admission, he decided that university wasn't the road to travel down. Instead, he left, returning home to follow another path, but felt rejuvenated when it came to talking about his mental health disorders.
More and more young males are diagnosed with depression and anxiety in the UK, but don't talk about it due to the reaction it might get, the fear of peoples' perceptions, or being scared of their masculinity being affected.
Be brave. Talk about it.
'U OK M8?' is an initiative from TheLADbible in partnership with a range of mental health charities which will feature a series of films and stories to raise awareness of mental health.
Samaritans: 116 123.
CALM: Outside London 0808 802 5858, inside London 0800 58 58 58.
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Illustrations by danwilson1982